Sunday, September 30, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Time For Offensive Triumvirate To Prove Their Worth

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE



Manning  ~  Barkley  ~  Beckham

New York Football Giants: Onus on Big Three to be Elite.

Olivier Vernon will miss his fourth game due to a high ankle sprain.  It's one of the more diabolical  injuries in all of sports because it lingers and lingers, and can potentially compromise whole seasons.  Meanwhile, Eli Apple - who went from being a locker room cancer last season to returning this season as one of the Giants most important secondary pieces - will miss another week with a groin issue.

Someone once said you are what your record says you are.  But despite injuries, the Giants have thus far played representative defense.  Without their top pass rusher, the Giants are still somehow limiting opponents to an average of 20.6 points per game.  Then again, we're talking about the Jaguars, Cowboys, and Texans.  

However, starting Sunday against the Saints, the Giants have Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan to look forward to.  In other words, this Giants defense is about to face a higher level of opponent.  Problem is they have recorded just four sacks through three games.  That in turn makes Olivier Vernon's unavailability an area of much greater concern.

Even more dire than that, is the increasingly questionable availability of Snacks Harrison.  I said it last week: if the Giants lose him, they're done.

That said, it's time this offense takes some pressure off the defense.  If there is one game in which they need to finally break the thirty-point threshold, this is it.  After three weeks of mixed results, and losing tight end Evan Engram this week to yet another injury, it's now incumbent upon the Giants featured triumvirate of talent to get in sync and place the responsibility of securing victory squarely on their backs.

Eli Manning is coming off his best game of the season, Odell Beckham has 100-yard games against the Jaguars and Texans, and Saquon Barkely has more than proven himself a legitimate duel threat with 216 yards rushing, and 137 yards receiving.

It just so happens the Saints give up points in bunches.  Last week, the Giants new offensive line combination provided Eli just enough time, and Saquon Barkley just enough daylight in order to make play-action a viable weapon again.  Therefore, Eli and Odell need to finally start connecting for touchdowns against a pedestrian Saints secondary.

Last week, Eli completed 25 (86%) of 29 attempts for 297 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

FYI:

The Giants faced the eventual Super Bowl champion Eagles last season in Week Three, in which they suffer a 27-24 loss.  Eli Manning completes 35 (74%) of 47 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.  However, he winds up throwing two INTs.  Do you think rushing 17 times for a mere 49-yards had anything to do with that?

Enter Saquon Barkley ...



N.Y. Mets: The Wright Way

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



THE CAPTAIN
 5
David Wright

New York Mets: Never before has the organization celebrated an occasion quite like this.

The New York Mets are poised to conclude their 56th year of operation.  Looking back, it is rather surprising that prior to David Wright there have been only two players who spent their entire careers with the Mets.

The more time goes by, the more grateful I am to have seen Ed Kranepool play out his final seasons with the Mets.  Eddie hit a majestic home run against the Giants at Shea Stadium one night in the summer of '76, that I swear still has yet to land.  That was a pretty big deal for this nine year old.  The Mets were in existence for six years the year I was born, and were around for thirteen years once I finally latched on as a die hard fan in '74.  Being part of two N.L. pennants and a Word Series title made Kranepool an endearing player through his continuing years.  But he was additionally beloved as a local guy from Bronx.  By the late 70s we recognized we were watching his last games.  Before chants in the early 1980s of Rusty! Rusty! Rusty! ... Eddie! Eddie! Eddie! was the anthem of 1979.  His name still resonates with fans today.  No disrespect to Jose Reyes, but when I think number seven, Steady Eddie Kranepool is the first former Mets player whom immediately jumps to mind.

By the time of Kranepool's retirement, the organization itself was only 18-years old.  Five years later  another career Met decided to call it quits.  For twelve seasons Ron Hodges faithfully served as spot starter and primary backup to Jerry Grote, and John Stearns.  Hodges began his Mets career as a rookie with the 1973 N.L. champs, and retired after the 1984 season.

The organization has certainly honored players through the years and decades.  They feature Hall of Fame members as well.  However, never before have they been able to properly honor and celebrate one of its own home grown, career-long great players, for David Wright is effectively their first, and easily the greatest life long ambassador they've ever had.

On September 29, 2018, Wright plays his last game with the only club he's ever known.  Thus David Wright becomes only the third player to spend his entire playing career with the New York Mets.  He also retires arguably with the distinction of being the greatest home grown positional product and ultimately one of the greatest players in Mets history.  Darryl Strawberry still leads the Mets all-time in home runs, while Ed Kranepool still holds the club record in games played.  Otherwise, David Wright has damn near rewritten the entire Mets records book.  And on Sunday Citi Field fills to capacity with fans showering David Wright with fifteen years worth of thanks, appreciation, and praise for being one of MLB's greatest yet humble stars to ever don a Mets uniform.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

PIGSKIN 2018: Week Four



PIGSKIN
FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Four

RESULTS
Week One
Week Two
Week Three


SCOREBOARD:
Week Three Record ATS:  5-9
Overall Record:  16-23-1
Schmear of the Week:  3-0
Bagels in the Basket:  -1

1st and Ten:
  • L.A. Rams first team with four victories.  What Jared Goff did to Minnesota was just stupid.
  • Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are running wild.
  • The Miami Sea Mammals are basking in the South Beach sunshine ... for now.
  • After stunning the Jets in his NFL debut, Baler Mayfield makes his first NFL start this week at the Black Hole against the Raiders.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick is first QB with three straight 400-yard games ... ever.

2nd and Long
  • Le'Veon Bell to the Jets is a long shot.  Don't believe it.
  • It's gonna be a long day for Sam Darnold.

No Gain
  • Anyone who says they predicted the Cardinals and Texans starting 0-3 are lying.
  • Oakland is an entirely different story.  I once thought Derek Carr would be the difference maker.
  • Buffalo's sacking of the Vikings means nothing to me.  File that under "Any Given Sunday"

PUNT!
  • What league officiating has done to Clay Matthews is a freakin' joke!  The NFL itself has nary an explanation.  They can't clarify their own rules.  Goodell has retreated into his turtle shell.

WEEK ELEVEN
Friday Line ~ NYP

JAGUARS -7 1/2 (Jets)
Hard deciphering if whether New England spit the bit against the Jags, or the Jags clawed-up the Pats.  Jaguars sack Eli Manning twice and get in another six QB hits in Week One.  Now it's Sam Darnold's turn to face Sacksonville - good luck with that, rook.  And if Leonard Fournette plays, Darnold should expect a few less possessions.  Instead of an extended week of quality practice, the Jets have been dealing with fallout from losing to the Browns, The Butt Wipe, and the Jamal Adams he said/I didn't say that/he misspoke, post Baker Mayfield stuff.  Coach Bowles says this is a teachable moment.  I say the whole class deserves detention.
WIN; 31-12 Jaguars

GIANTS +3 1/2 (Saints)
Unlike their last meeting, I smell shootout.  Eli Apple will miss another week, while the Giants lone viable pass rusher (Olivier Vernon) remains out with a high ankle sprain (an all-time miserable and ever lingering injury).  Therefore Drew Brees will be free to attack the Giants secondary with fury (...if the Cowboys were able to spook them, imagine what Brees can do).  Even then, a compromised Giants defense has demonstrated resiliency, and has by no means been outclassed, yet.  Their offense on the other hand hasn't scored 30-points in a game for quite some time, but this may finally be the week.  The Saints give up points in bunches.  Last week, the Giants new offensive line combination provided Eli just enough time, and Saquon Barkley just enough daylight, to make play-action a viable weapon again.  That said, it's high time Eli and Odell start connecting for touchdowns against a pedestrian Saints secondary.  With Evan Engram also out of the mix, the Giants triumvirate of Eli-Beckham-Barkley must seize the moment and begin carrying this team as planned.
Loss; 33-18 Saints


Dolphins +7 (PATRIOTS)
Pretender or contender?  Wins over TEN, NYJ, and OAK do not a division title make.  But Miami sure can get to New England while they're down.  If Tannehill and the Sea Mammals play a clean game - no turnovers - they can cover against a sloppy, grumpy Patriots team still transitioning with a new coordinator.  Plus, Julian Edelman isn't due back till next week.  Belichick will eventually figure something out, but Miami knows they can steal one right now.  Winning is one thing; covering is another.
Loss; 38-7 Patriots

Texans +1 (COLTS)
What's up with the Texans?  They're not sinking to 0-4, are they?  This pick is based strictly on the law of averages.  J.J. Watt sacked Eli Manning three times and got in another five QB hits, and Eli still carved Houston up.  Enter Andrew Luck ...  Perhaps Deshaun Watson finally steps it up this week.
WIN; 37-34 Texans  o.t.

FALCONS -4 1/2 (Bengals)
This spread is tough; real tough.  I'd stay away from this game as if it had Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease.  But I trust Matt Ryan who seems to be playing with a chip on his shoulder.  Thus I'm siding with the Falcons at home.  Banking on a pick-six to help me through.  Perhaps limiting on occasion the Bengals (cough .. cough .. this era's ultimate underachievers .. cough) to field goals works too.
Loss; 37-36 Bengals

PACKERS -9 1/2 (Bills)
No one saw coming what the Bills did to Minnesota .. No one!  Damn right I'll take my chances with the GOAT on one leg.  Clay Matthews is so pissed off, he might shut down Buffalo all by himself.
WIN; 22-0 Packers

Lions +3 (COWBOYS)
Last week's Dallas pick was absolutely swayed by what the Boys did to my Giants in Week Two.  Then there's the way the Jets dismantled Detroit in Week One.  This is parity at its finest.  Take the points.  Maybe Jerry Jones will finally fire his general manager.
WIN; 26-24 Cowboys

BEARS -3 (Bucs)
Todd Bowles called ... wants to know why Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't play like this for him?  Says he has the film to prove it.  Next victim, Chicago?  Time for Khalil Mack to show the Bears why they acquired him.  This Ryan Fitzpatrick stuff needs to stop.
WIN; 48-10 Bears

Eagles -3 1/2 (TITANS)
I know Sproles is out, but Philly is still the defending champ.  Carson Wentz is back with a game under his belt.  And despite Tennessee's performance against Jacksonville, I'm still a little ehhh.. about the Titans.  Every time I show them a little Sunday luv, they let me down.
Loss; 26-23 Titans

Seahawks -3 1/2 (CARDINALS)
I find this half-point, and entire spread disturbing.  Admiral Akbar says, "It's a trap!"  The Cardinals have scored a total of 20 points through three games.  Last week was their best game in which they lost (14-16) by two points against da Bears.  Seattle, meanwhile, allows less points than Arizona, plus Russell Wilson, despite being gimpy of late, doesn't need to stay in the pocket in order to beat you.  And, well, the Cardinals look really beatable.  Vegas is up to no good.
Loss; 20-17 Seahawks

Browns +3 (RAIDERS)
The Browns are playing athletic pressure free football, which makes them dangerous.  They put up 21-points against PITT, and befuddled a fairly respectable NYJ defense.  However, Cleveland's own defense is their emerging strength.  The Raiders are having an awful time getting their act together under Gruden.  In my opinion, they got exposed more so last week by Miami than against LAR in Week One.  Chuckie won't know what hit him when them young hungry Browns start flying around making tackles everywhere.  The real fringe bet is when does Gruden blow his top at the media.
PUSH; 45-42 Raiders  o.t.

CHARGERS -10 1/2 (49ers)
No Jimmy-G ... no gold rush for you.  No disrespect toward Philip Rivers, but the Chargers win this game easily because that's what paper tigers do.
Loss; 29-27 Chargers

Ravens +3 (STEELERS)
Yes, the Steelers are home.  Yes, they've played three very intriguing games and are putting up points without Le'Veon Bell.  Yes, I cringe anytime I go against Ben Roethlisberger because he is indeed so big and bouncy.  But this has much more to do with Joe Flacco and a resurgent Baltimore offense going up against a PITT defense allowing lots of points.  All the makings of a one point game.
WIN; 26-14 Ravens


SCHMEAR of the WEEK: (3-0)
Eagles -3 1/2
LOSS


Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday.

Post-Game:
Week Four Record ATS: 6-6-1
Overall Record:  22-29-2
Schmear of the Week:  3-1
Bagels in the Basket:  -5


Thursday, September 27, 2018

N.Y. Mets: Denton True deGromination

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



National League Cy Young Award
TOM SEAVER  ~  DWIGHT GOODEN  ~  R.A. DICKEY

New York Mets: Max Scherzer is Great, But This Season Jacob deGrom is Better.

As the 2018 regular season winds down, the race for this year's Cy Young award is being hotly debated.  In fairness to Philadelphia Phillie Aaron Nola, he's the only candidate who pitched for a viable contender.  The Mets have long since assured themselves a sub .500 finish, and by the end of June Washington never got any closer to first place than five games.  However, I think most would agree Nola rates third behind D.C.'s Max Scherzer and the Mets own Jacob deGrom.

At 34-years of age, Max Scherzer may have pitched the best season of his career.  A three-time Cy Young award winner, Scherzer leads the majors in innings pitched and strikeouts.  He leads the National League in victories, WHiP, least hits allowed per nine innings, strikeouts per nine innings, strikeout/walk ratio, and batting average against.

He achieves 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career, making him only the 17th pitcher to achieve the feat since 1900, and only the fifth pitcher this century.

Scherzer may squeeze in one more start before the season is through.

  • 33 starts;  220.2 innings pitched;  18-7 record;  2.53 ERA;  0.911 WHiP;  300 strikeouts 6.1 H/9;  2.1 W/9;  12.2 K/9;  5.88 K/W ratio;  2.65 FIP;  168 ERA+;  .188 average against/.247 OBP/.332 SLG/.580 OPS;  0.9 HR/9;  9.0 WAR.

Jacob deGrom's season comes to an end this past Wednesday at Citi Field.  Now 30-years of age, and in his fifth season with the New York Mets, Jacob deGrom undoubtedly crafts the finest campaign of his career, and perhaps one of the most dominant in Mets history.  Jacob leads the major leagues in ERA, ERA+, HR/9, and WAR for pitchers.  He leads the National League in least walks per nine innings, OBP against, SLG against, OPS against, and FIP.  He trails Max Scherzer by only fractions in WHiP, H/9, and strikeout/walk ratio.

  • 32 starts;  217 innings pitched;  10-9 record;  1.70 ERA;  0.912 WHiP;  269 strikeouts;  6.3 H/9;  1.9 W/9;  11.15 K/9;  5.84 K/W ratio;  1.98 FIP; 219 ERA+;  .196 average against/.244 OBP/.277 SLG/.521 OPS0.4 HR/9;  9.8 WAR.

In his most recent start, Max Scherzer allows just one earned run on five hits and no walks, and strikes out ten Miami Marlins en route to his 18th victory.  In his final start of the season, Jacob deGrom tosses eight scoreless innings, allows just two hits and no walks, and fans ten Atlanta Braves en route to his tenth victory of the season.

Photo finish?

Hardly ...

Max Scherzer on average benefited from 5.27 runs per start.  The Mets line-up provided just 3.53 runs in support of deGrom.

If that sounds like a pity party, then perhaps there's a better case to be made for sustainability.

Max Scherzer fades considerably down the stretch.  His 1.95 ERA as of June 5 only grows and has remained above two ever since.  In his six starts (Aug. 23 - Sept. 20) previous to that against Miami, Scherzer allows 20 earned runs through 39 innings pitched for a 4.61 ERA.

Since May 2, Jacob deGrom's ERA never once climbs above two.  On April 16 (against the Nationals) he throws the first of his MLB record-setting 29 consecutive starts allowing three runs or less.  Jacob breaks Doc Gooden's Mets record of 24, but moreover breaks the MLB record of 25 established back in 1910 by Chicago Cub, King Cole.  The streak also ties the overall mark set over two seasons by former Chicago Cub, Jake Arrieta.*

I'm not done ...

While Max Scherzer allows one run or less in 12 (36%) of his 33 starts, Jacob deGrom allows one run or less in 21 (65%) of his 32 starts.

That's what you call Denton True deGromination.


METS CY YOUNG AWARD WNNERS:

1969 - Tom Seaver; allows one run or less in 16 (45%) of 35 starts.
1973 - Tom Seaver; allows one run or less in 16 (44%) of 36 starts.
1975 - Tom Seaver; allows one run or less in 14 (38%) of 36 starts.
1985 - Dwight Gooden; allows one run or less in 19 (54%) of 35 starts.
2012 - R.A. Dickey; allows one run or less in 15 (44%) of 34 starts.

I repeat, Jacob deGrom this season allows one run or less in 21 (65%) of 32 starts.

Note: May 13; one inning pitched.


* NYDN




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Addition by Subtraction

From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE



 WEEK THREE
GIANTS   27
TEXANS  22
FINAL

New York Football Giants: Big Blue Back-Ups Rush to Reinforce Offensive Line.

Despite Cries to the Contrary, Dave Gettleman Has So Far Kept Off-Season 
Promise to Revamp Offensive Line and Recommit to Running Game.

First, allow me to preface everything by saying that for three straight weeks now, the Houston Texans have been utterly, albeit unexpectedly, terrible.  I heard over the weekend someone say that Houston is playing against two teams: their opponents and themselves.  Whatever their malfunction, its their problem.

The Giants gain their first victory of the season with a very well rounded effort against the Texans.  However, Big Blue is not without their own problems.  Starting center Jon Halapio breaks his leg in Week Two against the Dallas Cowboys forcing Brett Jones into action, and beleaguered right tackle Ereck Flowers is (finally) benched in favor of Chad Wheeler.

Rewind back to Week One against Jacksonville - With both Jon Halapio and Ereck Flowers starting, the Giants rush 23 times for 114 net yards.  Together Jonathan Stewart and Saquon Barkley account for 20 attempts.  Five plays go left (behind either guard Will Hernandez and tackle Nate Solder) for 16-yards; five plays go up the middle (Jon Halapio) for 6-yards.  But ten plays go right-side (guard Patrick Omameh and tackle Ereck Flowers) for 92-yards, which includes Saquon Barkley's fourth quarter 68-yard touchdown run.  That play started middle but then bounced right through Ereck Flowers' lead block.  But if you subtract Barkley's romp, the Giants run right nine times for 24-yards.

Jon Halapio and Ereck Flowers start again at Dallas.  This turns out being a bad day for not just the offensive line, but for all involved - Coach Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula included.  The Giants all but abandon the run game, rushing only 14 times all game for 31-yards.  Eli scrambles three other times giving the Giants a total of 37-yards on the ground.  Halapio sustains a broken leg with six minutes left in the third quarter.  Prior to his injury, the Giants attempt a mere ten rushes for 27-yards.  Post injury, the Giants attempt another four rushes for four more yards.  All told, the Giants rush left six times for 19-yards.  They rush middle seven times with but one yard to show, and four other rushes go right for 17-yards.

With Jon Halapio out for the season, and Houston's J.J. Watt looming, Coach Shurmur benches Ereck Flowers.  And low and behold, Sunday ushers in a remarkable change in chemistry, and perhaps even fortune.  Or does command decision and better execution rule the day?

PASS PROTECTION IS A BIG BLUE ISSUE

In fairness to Chad Wheeler, J.J. Watt is an extraordinary specimen and arguably the best NFL creature at his position.  The Texans predictably sack Eli Manning four times and rough him up six other times (J.J. Watt alone accounts for three sacks, and five QB hits).  Wheeler struggles against Watt's speed rushes, and at times is simply outsmarted.  Back in Week One, the Jaguars sack Eli twice and get in six other touches.  After which Dallas sacks Eli six times and tag him with eight other QB hits in Week Two.  Suffice it to say pass protection remains a Giant issue.  After three weeks, they've allowed twelve sacks and 20 other QB hits.  That's no way to keep your 37-year old quarterback healthy and on the field.  His greatest ability will ultimately be his continued availability.

And that's why the running game is of paramount concern.  Eli is at his best working off play action.

With Brett Jones and Chad Wheeler starting for the first time together, the offensive line provides just enough space and time for Eli Manning, and creates just enough daylight for another 100-yard ground effort.  Eli connects on 25/29 (86%) for 297 yards and two touchdowns.  Meanwhile, Saquon Barkley, Jonathan Stewart, and Wayne Gallman join together on 25 rushes for 115-yards.  The Giants run left six times for 22-yards.  Although three plays up the middle go for negative yardage, they run off-center ten times for 18 net yards.  The right side has another big day, with nine rushes going their way resulting in 75-yards gained and a touchdown.

OUT OF THE DARK; INTO THE DAYLIGHT

The Giants are clearly rushing middle/right - towards their weakness - with a noticeable measure of success.  Through three games, they've rushed left-side 17 times for 57-yards.  They've gone up the gut 23 times for 40-yards, and have rushed right-side 22 times for 169-yards.  The latter is more than the 2017 Giants entire rushing totals through their first three games as they elect to run a mere 46 times for a grand total of 147-yards.  Through three games this season, Saquon Barkely alone has rushed exactly 46 times for 216-yards.  Otherwise, the Giants have rushed for 263-yards to date.  Meanwhile, Eli Manning is down to 81 pass attempts versus 117 pass attempts at this time last season.

This is Dave Gettleman at work.  With the benching of Ereck Flowers, the offensive line left behind by former general manager Jerry Reese is officially purged.  Of course, there is still much work to be done and more improvements to be made.  For the moment, however, it appears as if Gettleman has accomplished in one off-season what Reese failed to adequately address over the last six or seven seasons.  Despite a disappointing 1-2 start, the first three games of this season prove that out.

At the same time, this is not a ringing endorsement.



Monday, September 24, 2018

L.I. Ducks: 2018 Liberty Division Champions

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Ducks Win Liberty Division Series, 3-2
I - LID 9; SOM 2
II - LID 11; SOM 1
III - SOM 8; LID 4
VI - SOM 5; LID 3
V - LID 3; SOM 2*
*10 innings

Long Island Ducks Outlast Somerset Patriots; Win Liberty Division Crown; Advance to Atlantic League Championship Series.

For the moment, this concludes an otherwise epic season-long battle against the Patriots.  The teams split their regular season series down the middle, with each gaining nine victories apiece.  Somerset clinches the first-half division title while posting a 6-3 record over Long Island.  But the Ducks turn the tables in the second-half, likewise taking six of nine from their rival and clinching the division by two games over Somerset.

The Liberty Division championship series opens at Bethpage Ballpark, where the Ducks pummel visiting Somerset in games one and two by a combined 20-3 margin.  As the series shifts to TD Bank Ballpark, the Patriots strike back with victories in games three and four.  In the fifth and decisive game at Somerset, the teams remain deadlocked at two through nine innings of play.

Naturally ...

With two outs in the top of the tenth, Ducks third baseman Taylor Ard singles to center.  David Washington follows with a single to right, advancing Ard to third.  Catcher Ramon Cabrera then lofts a fly to right/center that drops in, scoring Ard from third with the go-ahead run.  Closer Francisco Rodriguez had previously been called upon by Coach Baez to pitch the ninth.  For the bottom of the tenth, Coach calls upon veteran starter Matt Larkins.  After fanning lead-off batter Craig Massey, Larkins greets Somerset shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez with an inadvertent pitch to the ribs.  Undeterred, Larkins retires Endy Chavez on a pop-out to short, then induces first baseman Jayce Boyd into a game ending fielder's choice.

Entering the series, I noted in my preview Long Island's offensive production would not necessarily be the problem.  And it wasn't.  The Ducks wound up outhitting the Patriots 53-41, and outscoring them by a 30-18 margin. 

However, I insisted the Ducks would need to somehow out-pitch Somerset, a team which ranked first/second in most major pitching categories alongside Sugar Land.  The Ducks, who during the regular season ranked fifth/six in most pitching categories, did just that.  Through five games plus one inning, Somerset starters allowed 18 earned runs through 26.2 innings pitched for a 6.18 ERA.  Their bullpen surrendered another nine earned runs in 17.1 innings for an ineffective 4.73 ERA.  Meanwhile Ducks starters allowed just 13 earned runs through 29.1 innings pitched for a 4.02 ERA.  The bullpen was stellar, allowing just three earned runs in 14.2 innings for a 1.90 ERA. 

Closer Francisco Rodriguez earns the victory in Long Island's clinching game, and veteran starter Matt Larkins earns the save.

Well done, Duck!


ATLANTIC LEAGUE 
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Long Island Ducks
vs
Sugar Land Skeeters
FROM
The Lone Star State


That makes three straight Liberty Division titles for Long Island, thus marking their third straight trip to the Atlantic League Championship Series.  The Ducks have previously appeared in six league championships in their history and have won three league titles, but none since their back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.  In each of the last two years, the Ducks were swept first by the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2016, then again last season by the York Revolution.  The Skeeters (1-1) are making their third ever trip to the championship series.

May the wind be at your backs  ...

Next stop is Sugar Land, Texas, where the Skeeters await the Flock's arrival.



Sunday, September 23, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Autumnal Equinox Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Sam, Rich, and I present you 
Episode #21 of a Metsian Podcast with special guest, 

Two Hours



Lots-O-Stuff
Second-half and September play ~ Last home stand of season ~ Finishing strong
The Raging Denton True Young Debate
Jacob deGrom/Sustainability vs. Max Scherzer/Fading Fast
The Best of David Wright Round Table
Subway Series ~ World Series ~ Triple Crown threat
Captain America ~ Toast of the Town
Wilmer's knees ~ When Nature calls ~ The Ghost of Kevin Bass
Amed Rosario ~ Jeff McNeil ~ Michael Conforto
Cleon Jones ~ Lucas Duda ~ NYC in 1921 ~ Carlos Delgado
Mickey Callaway's progress ~ Sandy Alderson's fingerprints
and so much more ...



PIGSKIN 2018: Week Three



PIGSKIN
FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Three

RESULTS
Week One
Week Two


SCOREBOARD
Week Two Record:  5-9
Overall Record (ATS):  11-14-1
Schmear of the Week:  2-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +1

  • Just a reminder, Pigskin bets Bagels, and the Schmear of the Week is worth three. I count Push against my record.  I either win, or I don't ... no participation trophies here.


N.Y. JETS: Sam Darnold Throws the Dawg Pound a Bone

The Browns enter last Thursday's game 1-32-1 over their last 34 games.  This night starts out no differently.  Sparked by a rabid defense, the Jets break out to a 14-0 lead on two Isaiah Crowell rushing touchdowns.  Gang Green lays siege upon Cleveland's Tyrod Taylor, sacking him three times.  Taylor would exit the game after suffering a first-half concussion.  Then, suddenly, the Jets engines shut down.  In relief of Taylor, Heisman Trophy winner and first overall selection of this year's NFL draft, Baker Mayfield helps lead the Browns to a 21-17 victory in his NFL debut.  The Jets, limited to just a field goal since 7:54 of the second quarter, still have one last possession.  But with under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Sam Darnold throws his second INT of the game in Jets territory, thus sealing Cleveland's first victory since week sixteen of the 2016 season.  For a weekend, at least, Thursday's result makes Cleveland look like geniuses for opting against drafting Sam Darnold, and instead selecting Baker Mayfield with the first overall selection.  When the Giants with the second overall pick select Saquon Barkley, the Jets very happily select Darnold with the third overall pick.  Happy, however, is not a word I would presently associate with Coach Bowles.  After about 23-minutes or so of smooth flying, the Jets suffered every conceivable malfunction, and and one particular episode of an employee's piss poor behavior.


1st and Ten:
  • See above.  The Browns raise eyebrows when they play Pittsburgh to a tie.  Defeating the Jets is a mild achievement at best, but the Browns are now 1-1-1, nonetheless.

2nd and Long:
  • The first two weeks are always whacky ... no?
  • Enjoy this 2-0 start, Ocean Mammal fans.  The AFC East is between you and New England.  Good luck with that.
  • Do the 0-2 Raiders (...eh hem, John Gruden) regret trading Khalil Mack, yet?
  • Didn't anticipate Houston starting 0-2, but there's good news Texans fans, you're playing the Giants.
  • Just when I thought Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn't pull that off again, he and the damn Tampa Bay Buccaneers go and pull that off again.

No Gain:
  • Hello, my name is Michael, and I'm a Giants fan.  The team is off to an 0-2 start.  Their offensive line is miserable to begin with.  Now they lose their starting center (who wasn't even a real center by trade to begin with...) for the season with a broken leg.
  • For Jets fans, it's like Week One never happened.
  • The seemingly fireproof Marvin Lewis has his Bengals off and running with a 2-0 start.  But, does it really matter?

PUNT!
  • After two weeks, it seems as if Arizona's windows have just been slammed shut.  They're making the Buffalo Bills look good by comparison.  Arizona has a -52 point differential.  Buffalo is slightly higher with a -55 mark, but at least they've scored 23 points thus far.  Meanwhile the Cardinals have scored just six points through two games.
  • I'm punting on that whole debate as to whom needs whom more with regard to the relationship between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.  I believe they needed each other in order to achieve such great dynastic heights.  They would have enjoyed their own respective success apart from each other as well, however, to a much lesser degree.  Perhaps one or two rings for this one, and maybe a pair for that one.  If apart, neither would have won five rings, nor appeared in four other Super Bowls, much less nine overall dating back to Super Bowl XXXVI.


WEEK THREE
Friday Line  ~ NYDN

TEXANS -6 (Giants)
It's just a matter of time before the Texans get their rodeo going and string together some victories.  Playing at Houston, that time may be now.  The Giants defense is minus Eli Apple and Olivier Vernon (whom will miss his third straight week of action).  Offensively, a bad Giants offensive line just got worst as they lose starting center Jon Halapio to a broken leg.  If Eli Manning is already hard pressed at getting Odell Beckham the ball, how do you think this latest development will affect him?  Any match-up advantage Odell could have benefited from against an injured Texas secondary is now potentially negated by the Giants decreasing pocket protection.  The Giants added a fullback to the 53-man roster (about damn time!!!) in an effort to reinforce Saquon Barkley's sputtering quest for daylight.  I see nothing positive happening for Big Blue Sunday.
LOSS; 27-22 Giants

EAGLES -6 (Colts)
Andrew Luck is looking good again.  But six points screams confidence coming off Philadelphia's recent loss.  Perhaps that loss snaps the Eagles out of last year's frame of mind and into Sunday's game.
LOSS; 20-16 Eagles

Bengals +3 (PANTHERS)
Never know what to expect with the Panthers.  I'd stay away from this.  On a different note, this is typical Bengals setting up Coach Lewis for another late season meltdown.
LOSS; 31-21 Panthers

JAGUARS -6 1/2 (Titans)
All Jackson does is continue proving themselves.  I love getting half-points.  I think SACKsonville will pressure Tennessee's Marcus Mariota.
LOSS; 9-6 Titans

Saints +3 (FALCONS)
Great game.  Nothing against the Falcons, but I still say the Saints will be one of the more balanced teams of the league.  That loss against Tampa, though, was a real head-scratcher.
WIN; 43-37 Saints  o.t.

RAVENS -5 1/2 (Broncos)
I'm reinvesting in the Ravens, largely because John Flacco has weapons to work with, again.  Denver worked far too hard at home in topping the Raiders.
WIN; 27-14 Ravens

Dolphins -3 (RAIDERS)
Speaking of Oakland ... when it rains, it pours.  John Gruden couldn't have his team any less prepared.  Tannehill played a very efficient game against the Jets last week.  If he plays similarly, the sea mammals will outlast and overcome a presently inept Oakland team.
WIN; 28-20 Dolphins

D.C. HOGS -3 (Packers)
I'll take my chance Alex Smith finally snaps out of his funk.  After all, he is still readjusting to a new team and system.  Aaron Rogers can only perform so many miracles with that cranky knee.
WIN; 31-17 Hogs

VIKINGS -16 1/2 (Bills)
If I were a betting man, put together a three team tease and add the ten points.  Don't like these larger than usual spreads.  Oh, wait!  They're playing the Bills.
LOSS; 27-6 Bills

Niners +6 1/2 (CHIEFS)
I know the Chiefs are hotter than a sweatband in a fireman's helmet.  Just hoping the Niners can generate enough points to cover.
LOSS; 38-27 Chiefs

RAMS -7 (Chargers)
Battle of the NFL nomads.  The Chargers are a paper tiger.
WIN; 35-23 Rams

Bears -6 (CARDINALS)
Cardinals are as down as they've been for many years.  Their last two weeks have been absolute abysmal.  The Bears might finally figuring how this thing called defense works.
LOSS; 16-14 Bears

Cowboys +1 1/2 (SEAHAWKS)
Like this spread.  The Seahawks are 0-2, and feature an inept offensive line presently rivaling that of the Giants.  Seattle's 12th man won't factor much if Dallas runs the ball with power.
LOSS; 24-13 Seahawks

Patriots - 6 1/2 ( LIONS)
Nothing scientific here.  The Patriots lost by nine last week, but should have their way with Detroit.  Famous last words ...
LOSS; 26-10 Lions


SCHMEAR of the WEEK: (2-0)
RAMS -7
WIN


Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Post-Game
Week Three Record (ATS):  5-9
Overall Record:  16-23-1
Schmear of the Week:  3-0
Bagels in the Basket:  -1



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

L.I. Ducks: With Liberty and Playoffs For All

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



LIBERTY DIVISION
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Somerset Patriots
vs
Long Island Ducks


Here we go again.

As if there were any doubt ...

For a fourth consecutive post-season, the Long Island Ducks and Somerset Patriots will battle for the Liberty Division championship.  It's been this way pretty much ever since the league realigned and placed Somerset alongside the Ducks.

The Flock cut it close this season, narrowly capturing the second-half division flag over rival Somerset, and thereby averting a Wild Card scenario.  After a troublesome first-half, in which they finish five games back of the first place Patriots, Long Island finishes strong with a 39-24 mark, two games better than the Patriots, and a 69-57 record overall.  Somerset secures their post-season berth with a 35-28 first-half record and finish the regular season with a 72-54 record overall, three games better than the Ducks. 

Not coincidentally, the Patriots take the first-half head-to-head series six games to three.  The Ducks turn the tables in the second-half head-to-head series, likewise winning six and losing three.  Said another way, these rivals split their regular season series down the middle, posting nine victories apiece.

It goes to show how through the seasons little has changed with regard to this recurring match-up.  The Liberty Division championship series once again features an age old dynamic in which one of the league's strongest offensive teams opposes one of the league's top pitching teams.

Of the two clubs, Long Island is the offensive juggernaut.  The Ducks rank first in home runs and total bases, second in slugging, and third in runs scored and OPS.  Somerset ranks last in home runs, seventh in both total bases and slugging, and fifth in both runs and OPS.  However, the Patriots are second in walks and stolen bases, third in OBP, and fourth in team average.  Whereas the Ducks are fifth in both walks and stolen bases, and sixth in both OBP and team average.

Infielder Justin Trapp leads Somerset with eight home runs, while the Ducks feature three players in double-digits.  David Washington leads Long Island with 24 round-trippers (second in the league), and Taylor Ard is second with sixteen.  The ageless one, Lew Ford leads the team with 73 RBI.  Washington and Travis Snider are tied with 71 RBI.  Second baseman Jordany Valdespin spearheads the offense with a team leading .338/.400/.487 triple slash.  He wins the league batting title by fractions over Somerset's Craig Massey, whom also finishes with a .338 mark.  In addition to leading the Patriots in batting, Massey also leads Somerset with a .418 OBP.  Alfredo Rodriguez leads with 55 RBI, while Jayce Boyd tops the club with a .481 slugging average.

Unfortunately, the Ducks lost the services of Emilio Bonifacio.  At the time his contract is purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers, he was leading the Atlantic League with a .348 average through 70 games.

On the mound, Somerset features one of the top two pitching staffs in the league.  They're first in strikeouts, H/9, K/W, own the league's second best ERA and WHiP, and have issued the second least walks.  Meanwhile, the Ducks rank fifth or sixth in most pitching categories.

This is precisely why Long Island's best hopes for advancing into the Atlantic League championship series rests on the arms and shoulders of their starting rotation.  As John Brownell, Matt Larkins, and Jake Fisher go, so will go the Ducks.  They'll also need effective contributions from Hector Silvestre, Dennis O'Grady, and recently acquired Brett Marshall.

And should the Ducks take a lead late into the game, the old pro Francisco Rodriguez must slam the door closed.  He posts 27 regular season saves and 2.76 ERA, with 42 strikeouts through 42.1 innings pitched.

THE RIVALRY: DUCKS vs. PATRIOTS

Prior to league realignment, the Ducks and Patriots face off in the 2013 league championship series, with Long Island emerging victoriously, three games against two.  The following season, Somerset gets shifted out of the Freedom Division and proceed to win their first Liberty Division title.  In 2015, Long Island flips the script in defeating Somerset two games against one.  If you're a Ducks fan the 2016 series proves epic; for Patriots fans not so much.  Somerset jumps out to a 2-0 series lead, but Long Island storms back winning three straight to capture the Liberty Division flag.  Last season, the Ducks again sweep Somerset, but for a second straight season fall short in the Atlantic League championship series.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Brooklyn Street Art: On a Brick Wall Near You




PET BIRD RIP
Lorimer Street at Metropolitan Avenue


2nd Avenue, GOWANUS


SUNSET PARK



N.Y. Yankees: California Reeling

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

The Red Sox Athletics Are Coming!

New York Yankees: Boston Red Sox Poised to Clinch A.L. East Title on Bronx County Grounds.


"Aaron Boone has no pulse."

Back in April (13-15) I attend the Red Sox/Orioles series at Boston immediately following their brouhaha against the Yankees.  I spent the mornings in part listening to WEEI Sports Radio, and sure enough a pair of hosts accuse the Yankees of (paraphrasing) playing asleep, and that Aaron Boone has no pulse.  I dismiss their comments outright, chalking it up to local hyperbole.  Their comments, however, never truly leave my mind.  So I watch as the Yankees negotiate their way through the rest of Spring and the dog days of Summer, and I wonder.  In truth, the Yankees nor Aaron Boone do anything that, to me, serve to dispel the aforementioned critiques levied against them by Boston radio five months ago.

Then along comes Aug. 31, at Detroit.  The Yankees wake up that morning losers of three of their last four.  Later that night a sense of urgency finally erupts through Aaron Boone's otherwise cool exterior, when the manager earns a well deserved ejection from an otherwise victorious Yankees effort over the Tigers.

Since then, the Yankees have won six and lost eight.

So much for inspiring the troops ...

On Sunday, the Yankees suffer yet another debilitating loss against the Blue Jays.  Moreover, they are now losers of three of their last four series.  Only Sunday's Oakland loss against Tampa keeps the Yankees clinging for another day to their precarious 1.5 game lead for top Wild Card spot over the A's.
  • The Yankees are 29-25 since returning from the all-star break (26-22 since Aaron Judge went down); the A's have gone 35-18 over the same span.

And now, here come the Red Sox!  They arrive in Bronx County on Tuesday, but the series itself is an afterthought.  Boston already has their playoff ticket in hand, and are poised to clinch the A.L. East any day now.  That leaves the Yankees battling the Oakland A's for the right to host a one game post-season play-in, with only fourteen games left to play.

In the meantime, Seattle and Tampa represent nothing but trouble.  Just ask the Athletics who drop two of three over the weekend against the Rays.  Tampa and Seattle only trail the A's by seven games. The Yankees still must play the troublesome Rays four times before this Wild Card race is through, while Seattle and Oakland likewise have a four game series looming.

The Yankees enter Tuesday's series opener with a 91-58 record.  On Sunday, the Red Sox defeated the Mets at Fenway Park for their 103rd victory of the season and reduced their magic number to clinch the division to two.  Therefore, the Red Sox will very likely secure the A.L. East crown during this upcoming series on Yankee grounds.

That comes on Aaron Boone's watch, who now must find a way to keep his team from potentially boarding that flight bound for California.

It doesn't get any more wild than that.


Monday, September 17, 2018

N.Y. Jets: Grounded

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS REVENGE


That Empty Feeling ..

New York Jets: Ryan Tennehill's efficiency wins out over Sam Darnold's inexperience.

Congratulations are in order.  Sam Darnold throws for his first 300-yard game as a pro.  The rookie was 25 of 41 (61%) for 334 yards and a touchdown.

Be sure that's not what Coach Bowles had in mind, as Miami limits the Jets running game to a mere 41 yards on 17 rushes.  Pressed into an elevated role Sam Darnold throws two interceptions: one in the first quarter that Miami converts into six points, then a second in the third quarter.  By comparison, Darnold's veteran counterpart Ryan Tannehill offers up a sixty-minute lesson in efficiency and proficiency.

After such an impressive showing in Week One, this is indeed one of those oft recurring inexplicable team losses that makes fans scratch grooves into the sides of their heads.

Don't put this on the rookie.

I don't think anyone anticipated the Fish bringing the Jets running game to a grinding halt.

Down by twenty at halftime?

They still had chances.

Keep scratching.



N.Y. Giants: A Five Star Mess

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


BIG BLUE BLIGHT

New York Football Giants: The offense has played eight quarters of football with but one touchdown to show.

There's something to be said for not giving this newly constructed offensive line more reps during pre-season games.  However, there's very little that can be said in the way of defending Sunday night's atrocious play against the Cowboys at Dallas.

If the game were a movie, I'd rate them a five star mess.

The inescapable truth is that this revamped Giants offensive line was clearly out-played, out-muscled, out-smarted, and certainly out-classed.  Coach Shurmur and staff share equal fault for failing to make adequate in-game adjustments, if at all.  Moreover, losing center Jon Halapio is hardly an excuse for what transpired.  By the time he was being carted off the field, the proverbial damn had already burst allowing a torrent of Dallas pass rushers to flood the Giants backfield.

Eli Manning goes 33 of 44 (75%) for 279 yards and a touchdown.  But that hardly paints an accurate picture of the offensive debacle that was.  Eli is sacked six times, and hit another eight times.  With little time to negotiate through his progressions, Eli is forced into dumping off to Saquon Barkley 14 times for 80 yards.  By comparison, Odell Beckham only makes four receptions for 51-yards, while Cody Latimer's 37-yard reception goes down as the Giants longest play from scrimmage.

Forced into playing catch-up football, Saquon Barkley only rushes 11 times for a paltry 28-yards.  Aside from Eli Manning running for his life, the Giants only rush 14 times all game for 31 very inconsequential yards.

The Giants offense has played eight quarters of football thus far, but have only one touchdown to show.

Dave Gettleman built a win now team.

After two weeks, we're still waiting.


East Village Street Art: 1st Avenue at 2nd Street










Sunday, September 16, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Latest Greatest Three Positive People Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Sam, Rich, and I bring you a very positive
Episode #20 of a Metsian Podcast

Sam gets a gold star for this episode.



1 hour, 10 minutes

STUFF
Jacob deGrom and the continuing Cy Young debate
The great R.A. Dickey hypocrisy ~ Jack Morris ~ Craig Swan ~ 
Todd Frazier's fake catch ~ Umpires Gone Wild ~ David Wright reaction
JAY HORWITZ NEW JOB DESCRIPTION
Good Things To Say About The Wilpons .... No, Really!
Tommy Agee ~ BABE RUTH ~ Shawn Green
Amed Rosario ~ grading Callaway ~ catchers ~ Michael Conforto
Thor ~ second half play ~ parking cars ~ and so much more...!



Saturday, September 15, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Eli Manning Poised To Play In Narrative Defining Game

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Dave Gettleman Banking on Eli Manning's 
Ability to Turn Back the Clock

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New York Giants
vs.
Dallas Cowboys
FROM
The House That Jerry Built

New York Football Giants: Dallas Cowboys Will Do Far Better Job Exploiting Absence of Olivier Vernon; I'm Concerned With Extra Load Being Placed on Snacks Harrison.

The Giants will play once again minus the services of their top pass rusher, linebacker Olivier Vernon, who will miss a second straight week with a high ankle sprain.  The Giants say he'll be ready by next week.  But history says this injury is notorious for slow healing, and sometimes responsible for hampering entire seasons.

Without him, the defense last week generated little in the way of quarterback pressure, registering one sack, and just three other QB hits.  On the ground, Leonard Fournette was having his way until sidelined by a strained hamstring.  Otherwise the Jaguars go on to rush for 137 total yards.

Sunday night the Giants face Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and a superior Dallas Cowboys offensive line.  If Week One is any indication, the Giants will have difficulty generating much, if any pressure against Dak Prescott.  But there are reasons why the Cowboys only scored eight points last week against Carolina.  Without Dez Bryant, they have no legitimate high threat receivers to speak of.  It just renders their offense more predictable.., that's all.

But it also creates a great case study into new defensive coordinator James Bettcher's creativity.  His unit allowed the Jaguars only thirteen offensive points last week.  Bettcher should be daring Dak Prescott to beat them.  If Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, and Curtis Riley capably handle their respective assignments, Landon Collins can then potentially help stack the box against Ezekiel Elliott, and thus allow Bettcher to sneak in an occasional blitz.

On a somewhat different note, it appeared to me last week that playing minus Olivier Vernon at some point began taking its toll on Snacks Harrison.  In that regard, I envision this week unfolding similarly.  Keep an eye on Snacks, Coach, because he's the one player I feel the defense can least afford to lose.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE TYPE OF GAME DAVE GETTLEMAN IS TRUSTING ELI MANNING TO CARRY THE TEAM, AND WIN.

Point directly at Big Blue's offensive shortcomings for Week One's loss against the Jaguars.  Much was, and is still being made of Ereck Flowers poor performance.  When truth be told, the entire line played a flawed and inept brand of football.  Nate Solder was the first to admit that.  All told, the Giants rush 23 times for 114 total yards, but subtract Saquon Barkley's 68-yard romp, and the Giants rush 22 times for just 46 yards.  And if we're pointing fingers, the left side of the line (not the right) proved least effective.  The unit as a whole allowed two sacks and six more QB hits.

It seems Saquon Barkley's role is yet to be defined.  Last week he rushed 18 times with only two receptions, which is contrary to what many anticipated.  I would argue this week calls for 25 rushes of smash mouth type football.  After which I'm sure he'll be making many more receptions out of the backfield in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, Dallas is sure to test his abilities at reacting to an NFL blitz.

However, most problematic of all was last week's disconnect between Eli Manning and his receivers.
Eli's naysayers say elite quarterbacks find ways of carrying entire teams to victory regardless of the talent level surrounding them.  This week, that couldn't ring more true.  Getting open against Jacksonville was not necessarily a problem for Odell Beckham, Sterling Sherpard, or Evan Engram.  But timing and accuracy were.  I might be an Eli apologist without realizing it.  But even I'll admit this is Eli's game to either win or lose all by himself.  If he and his receivers clean up their act, the Giants should get out of Dallas with hard fought, well earned victory, and allow fans to breathe a little sigh of relief.

Or not ...


PIGSKIN 2018: Week Two


PIGSKIN
FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Two

RESULTS
Week One

SCOREBOARD:
Week One Record:  6-6-1
Schmear of the Week:  1-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +2

1st and Ten:
  • What Aaron Rogers did to the Bears last week was just stupid!
  • Sam Darnold on his first ever NFL pass attempt throws a pick-six against the Lions, but then proceeds to throw two TD passes in defeating the Lions by a 31-point margin of victory.
  • Saquon Barkley rushes for 106 yards and a TD in his NFL debut.
  • Bengals Swawn Williams first player ejected this season for illegal hit to the head (on Andrew Luck).
2nd and Long:
  • Aaron Rogers a long-shot to play Week Two.
  • Marcus Mariota enters Week Two dealing with a funky elbow.
No Gain:
  • Chicago Khalil Mack acquisition.
  • John Gruden's first game back.
  • Jerry Jones' continuing futility as GM of the Cowboys.
PUNT:
  • Carolina Panthers owner essentially tells rest of NFL owners to stick-it with their stupid anthem policy, telling them protesting does not make them unpatriotic.

WEEK TWO
Friday Line ~ NYDN

Giants +3 (COWBOYS)
Eli was somewhat off target last week.  I expect him and the offensive cohesiveness to be better.  The Giants are still playing minus Olivier Vernon.  But limiting the Jaguars to 13 offensive points last week is something the Giants defense can build on.  I envision them stuffing the box against Ezekiel Elliot, thus daring Dak Prescott and his pedestrian receivers to beat them.  The Cowboys only scored eight points last week against the Panthers.
Loss; 20-13 Cowboys
Dolphins +3 (JETS)
After last week's high, I expect a Week Two low.  I'm not saying the Dolphins are much better, but the Fish won't play as badly as did the Lions.  The Fish are still on a Week One high as well.  I just sense one of those inexplicable Jets let downs.
Win; 20-12 Dolphins

D.C. HOGS -6 (Colts)
I picked the Bengals last week over the Colts, but lost my Arizona pick over the Hogs.  The Colts offensive line is pathetic.  Andrew Luck sustained big hits in Week One.  I like the Hogs laying points at home.
Loss; 21-9 Colts

Panthers +6 (FALCONS)
Game plan be damned ... with Atlanta playing minus Devonta Freeman, and Carolina's offensive line essentially crippled after Week One, this will devolve into a shoot-out between Ryan and Newton.  In that scenario, I'll take the points.
Loss; 31-24 Falcons

Vikings +2 1/2 (PACKERS)
It's a trap!  Vikings win by nine.
Win; 29-29 TIE

Chargers -7 (BILLS)
West coast; long flight; jet lag; who cares.  It's not snowing in Buffalo yet.  Philip Rivers picks apart the Bills like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Win; 31-20 Chargers

Texans -2 1/2 (TITANS)
While the Titans continue pondering what went wrong last week, the Texans will cruise to easy victory.
Loss; 20-17 Titans

STEELERS -4 (Chiefs)
The Steelers tie the Browns; the Chiefs are better than the Browns; the Chiefs beat the Steelers.  That makes for nice football haiku, but the Steelers win at home out of pure desperation.  Missing Le'Veon Bell wasn't necessarily the reason why PITT came up short last week.  I think Big Ben's elbow (questionable) will be fine.  I'm uncomfortable laying four; one point more and I would have gone the other way.
UPDATE:  Big Ben may not be so fine after all, and may miss Sunday's game.  That changes everything, doesn't it ...  Since I'm my own commissioner, I'll decide what I do about this later.
Loss; 42-37 Chiefs

Eagles -3 (BUCS)
I defy Ryan Fitzpatrick to do that again!  Not against the Eagles defense, he wont.  Not happening, folks.
Loss; 27-21 Bucs

SAINTS -8 (Browns)
Speaking of which, Ryan Fitzpatrick ripped through the Saints defense like wet toilet paper.  They better clean that up fast.  These aren't last year's Browns.  In truth, I'm uncomfortable laying eight points.  Placing my hopes with Drew Brees in the Dome.
Loss; 21-18 Saints

RAMS -12 1/2 (Cardinals)
The Rams are good, but are the Cardinals that bad?  We're going to find out.
Win; 34-0 Rams

49ERS -6 (Lions)
After being tripped-up in Week One, Jimmy G will lead the Niners to their first victory over a hapless Lions team now reportedly dealing with internal turmoil.
Loss; 30-27 Niners

Patriots -1 (Jaguars)
It's just a point ...  I'll take that chance.
Loss; 31-20 Jaguars

Raiders +6 (BRONCOS)
So much for the obligatory home team laying three.  I'll gladly take six.  But will the real Raiders team please stand up.  I know the Raiders caved in the second half of Week One.  But they looked very good in the first half.  I know the Broncos defeated the Seahawks last week ... but I'm a big believer in parity.
Win; 20-19 Broncos


SCHMEAR of the WEEK:  1-0
Vikings +2 1/2
WIN

Good luck and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Post Game:
Week Two Record:  5-9
Overall Record:  11-14-1
Schmear of the Week:  2-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +1



Friday, September 14, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Captain David Wright Setting New Life Course

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


THE CAPTAIN
5
DAVID WRIGHT

New York Mets: Without actually using the "R" word, David Wright sadly informs the organization, media, and fans, that his playing career is unavoidably coming to an end.

The New York Mets held a Thursday mid-afternoon press conference at Citi Field where David Wright, accompanied by Jeff Wilpon and John Ricco, confirmed that various physical ailments affecting his neck, back, and shoulder, are preventing him from resuming his playing career.

In 2015, he only plays in 38 regular season games, but at least is able to participate in three rounds of playoffs and help the Mets win a National League pennant.  However, the following season he is again limited to just 37 games played, the last occurring on May 27, 2016, against the Dodgers at Citi Field.  Wright has not played a game for the Mets since.

Recent Injury History:
  • 2009 - suffers concussion/post-concussion symptoms after getting hit with pitch in head/helmet.
  • 2011 - suffers stress fracture in lower back.
  • 2016 - diagnosed with spinal stenosis; undergoes surgery for herniated disk in neck.
  • 2017 - undergoes rotator cuff surgery.

The club recently cut-short his official rehab assignment (at Las Vegas) so as to control the date of his official activation.  According to SNY-TV, the tentative plan is to reinstate him by Sept. 25, after which he will play third base on Saturday, Sept. 29, against the Miami Marlins in the penultimate game of the regular season at Citi Field.  David's availability for Sunday's season finale has yet to be determined, although unlikely.

Thursday's announcement sets in motion one of the more unfortunate and somber career endings to beset this organization throughout its five-plus decades old history.  Wright has been a part of the Mets family since they drafted him with the 38th overall selection in the 2001 amateur draft.  By late 2004 he is donning a New York Mets uniform for his first time.  After which, he spends the next fourteen years becoming one of the Mets most beloved players of all-time, and one of the organization's greatest ever ambassadors.

A seven time all-star, he makes his Mets debut on July 21, 2004, against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium.  At 21-years of age, he slashes .293/.332/.525, with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 69 games.  Between 2005-2008, and 2010, he averages .305/.386/.527/.913, with 29 home runs and 110 RBI.  He enjoys a resurgent season in 2012, slashing .306/.391/.492, with 21 home runs and 93 RBI.

Then injuries start piling up which ultimately take a career ending toll on his elite baseball abilities, however, not before David Wright rewrites the Mets history books.  He is the Mets all-time leader in At-Bats; Runs Scored; Hits; Doubles; RBI; and Walks.  He is second in games played behind Ed Kranepool, and second in home runs (only ten) behind Darryl Strawberry, and is third all-time in career average.  All of which arguably qualifies him as the greatest ever positional player in New York Mets history.

Above all else, I want David Wright, the husband and father of two daughters, to enjoy for many years to come a superior quality of life with his family, that he be able to dance with his daughters perhaps one day at their respective weddings, and maybe one day be able to play with grandchildren free of restrictions.

Otherwise, thank you, David Wright, for being such an upstanding person, and for being the admirable hero to so many Mets fans you undoubtedly have become.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

N.Y. Jets: Into the Wild Green Yonder

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE


This Johnson Is Not Like The Other

New York Jets: Sam Darnold Brushes Aside Opening Mistakes; Regroups for Calm, Cool, and Collected Finish to NFL Debut.

For nearly two decades now, the number of quarterbacks to don a Jets jersey has been commensurate with the carousel of head coaches and general managers exhausted by this organization's upper hierarchy.  It's a condition for which I blame Woody Johnson.

Enter Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, who on Tuesday said it would be "counterproductive" for him issue a playoff ultimatum for Coach Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan (both of whom received two-year contract extensions at the end of last season), according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

The Jets are only one game into the regular season, but coupled with their selection of Sam Darnold with the third overall pick of the draft, this just may prove to be the smartest start this organization has gotten off to in quite some time.

Although, it didn't seem that way as Sam Darnold on his first ever NFL pass attempt from scrimmage throws a pick-six.  His second possession proves no less futile.  But supported by a very effective running game, the rookie was able to brush aside any missteps and finally start proving his worth with a calm. cool, and collected finish.  He ends Monday night's game throwing 16 of 21 (76%) for 198 yards, the one INT, and the first two touchdown passes of his NFL career on connections to Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.

In addition to his abilities on the field, Darnold brings stability to the coaching staff.  I know Todd Bowles has his detractors, but I believe he gets far more out of his players than any available replacement would.  Mike Maccagnan, meanwhile, will have tons of money available to spend next season.  And so there is every reason for Christopher Johnson keep this operation together regardless of the Jets final record and standing.

Time finally seems to be changing ...